Saturday, October 8, 2011

what evangelicals mean when they call mormonism a "cult"

I think that as the election season begins to heat up, I will probably begin to incorporate more posts about politics into my blog.  I promise to try my best not to be reactive, but instead to be reflective and think carefully about what I write.  Please feel free to share alternate opinions (or agreeing ones!), but with respect and kindness to me and to other commenters!  Thanks!

The political world is all atwitter about the evangelical pastor who introduced Rick Perry at an event and called Mormonism a cult.  Perry later said he did not agree with the sentiment and that he didn't choose who introduced him.

To me, this was a non-event.  Except that I was initially a little surprised to find that Rick Perry, as an evangelical Christian, did not view Mormonism as a cult. I have always believed Mormonism to be a cult.  This does not mean that I disliked Mormons as people or felt that they were unworthy of participation in society.  In fact, there were some things that I thought they did better than some Christians: family values, the willingness to commit to being a missionary, the courage to be different in society.  I'd be very happy to have Mormon friends.  I have no problem with them in leadership and judge them the same as I do other leaders (are they good people of character? etc.).  I just don't think they are saved.  I don't think they trust Jesus as their Savior.

But for the first time today, I stopped to analyze the word "cult" and to wonder what the non-Christian world hears when they hear the word, "cult." I  began to wonder if what they hear is "weird, chanting, Kool-aid drinkers."  Which is not what I mean when I use the word, "cult."  What I mean is that Mormonism, although it calls itself "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," is a religious group that falls outside the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.  The main issue with Mormonism is that it denies core teachings of the Christian faith.

But given this definition, I am beginning to think that it may be more helpful language for us to use as evangelical Christians to call Mormonism "another religion." This still respects the fundamental difference between its beliefs and orthodox Christianity while not using language that suggests child sacrifice and mass killings (to some hearers).  It gives a better opportunity for witnessing too because we're just being honest about the significant (and salvation-impacting) differences instead of calling names.

I have had an issue for a long time with the religious significance many Christians give to the self-named religious revelations of another Mormon, Glenn Beck.  I'm not gonna wrangle too hard with you as a Christian if you agree with him politically.  But if you are a Christian and you ascribe spiritual significance to what he teaches, I am very concerned, because he is not a Christian.  He is the proponent of another religion.  He has every right to participate in society, and even to practice his religious beliefs and speak about them.  He has every right to use his free speech.  But as a Christian, I should be getting my spiritual guidance from my church, from other Christians, and from the Bible.

But I don't have a problem with Mitt Romney being a Mormon, in terms of whether he should be President.  He's not trying to guide me spiritually.  He's trying to assume an elected office.  Martin Luther once said something along the lines that he would rather have a wise Turk than a stupid Christian ruling in the land.  I agree.  I think that we don't have to have a Christian be the President.  I think it's great if there's a smart Christian who will lead well and have good ideas and morals, but if the best candidate is not a Christian, it's ok.  There is a difference between the realm of the church and the realm of the government.  And sometimes it's healthy for the church not to have all the power.  Look at how strong the church was in ancient Rome when it was persecuted by rulers who were far from God.  And look how ugly the church got when Constantine converted to Christianity and made the whole empire Christian.  Sometimes Christianity functions best as a minority.  Why?  Because we do not rely on our own strength but on God and we lean hard on Him.  We grow in our faith far more this way.

I submit these thoughts for your consideration in the midst of the broo-haha surrounding "that Mormon remark."  With all love and respect.:-)


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